Opening This Week, 'Nummer veertien, home' Brings Renowned Dutch Artist's Video to Wellesley

March 13, 2014

The exhibition, Guido van der Werve: Nummer veertien, home, has opened at the Davis Museum and will be on view through July 20.

Dutch artist Guido van der Werve has become internationally renowned for his video works numbered in sequence of production. His rapidly growing oeuvre of satirical yet deadpan videos, in which he often plays the protagonist, investigates such themes as melancholy and alienation. Van der Werve often composes the music that accompanies his films.

Nummer veertien, home, is a haunting, poetic film—and van der Werve's most recent—that interweaves the tales of Alexander the Great, the life and death of Frédéric Chopin, and the artist’s own personal odyssey.

When Chopin died in Paris, his sister vowed to fulfill the composer’s wish of bringing his heart back to his native land of Poland; she succeeded in smuggling his heart out of France and carried it to Warsaw where it was interred in the Church of the Holy Cross. For Nummer veertien, home, the artist completed a grueling 1,000-mile triathlon (swimming, biking, and running) from Warsaw to Paris—seven times the length of the Ironman Triathlon—retracing the path along which Chopin traveled to Paris and along which only his heart returned.

Van der Werve, a classically trained concert pianist, also composed the film’s lush score—a romantic 12-movement classical requiem that is played in situ at various locations en route. Nummer veertien, home explores themes common to van der Werve’s work: physical and emotional endurance, man’s struggle with nature, virtuosic performance, the intersection between history and geography, melancholy and the solitary.

According to Michael Maizels, Andrew W. Mellon New Media Curator/Lecturer and curator of the exhibition, “Evocative of the grand traditions of Classical composition and Romantic landscape painting, Nummer veertien, home offers an extended meditation on the nostalgia for origins. While Alexander the Great and Frédéric Chopin were never able to return from their wandering, van der Werve travels in their footsteps, recounting their journeys and recording the charged landscapes through which they traveled. Although the film ends on an optimistic note—with the artist returning a silver cup full of Polish soil to Chopin’s grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris—the melancholic mood of the piece speaks to the deep impossibility of such returns, of ever truly coming back home.”  

Nummer veertien, home is mesmerizing, lyrical, and a little bit cryptic as the artist confronts forces of nature and culture with an almost superhuman strength of will,” added Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro '37 Director of the Davis. “I am thrilled that Mike’s first exhibition during his tenure as our Mellon New Media Curator brings Guido van der Werve’s ambitious work to the Davis.”

Guido van der Werve was born in Papendrecht, the Netherlands in 1977 and currently lives and works in Finland, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Van der Werve pursued studies in industrial design, archaeology, music composition, and Russian language and literature at several universities in the Netherlands before beginning to create his first video-documented performances around 2000. Since that time he has created a variety of works, including films, videos, and artist’s books in chronological order from two to 15.

Recent showings of his work include solo exhibitions at the MOMA PS1, New York; the High Line, New York; the Giuliani Foundation, Rome; the Stedeliijk Museum, Amsterdam; and de Hallen Haarlem in the Netherlands. Van der Werve’s Nummer veertienhome, won the 2013 Golden Calf Award in Amsterdam for Best Short Film. One Viennese reviewer described his work as expressing  “…complex narratives about physical endurance, struggling with (one's own) nature, the passage of time, and the uncontrollable dynamics of chance.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public. All are invited to join the Davis for A Gallery Talk on Friday, April 18, at 3 p.m. in Collins Cinema. Maizels and Assistant Professor of Music Jenny Olivia John will discuss the intersection of emotion, memory, and performance in Guido van der Werve’s work.

Nummer Veertien: home is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant for New Media Art.